Ultimately, What is Forest Landscape Restoration in Practice? Embodiments in Sub-Saharan Africa and Implications for Future Design

Ida N.S. Djenontin, Leo C. Zulu, Daniel Etongo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is gaining ground as a novel, holistic approach to sustainable environmental management across developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, 30 countries have joined the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative to advance FLR goals. Although conceptually compelling, and despite efforts articulating initial implementation guidelines, divergent discourses and interpretations confound FLR translation into practice. We propose a characterization of FLR in practice using insights from political ecology; principles of ecological restoration and landscape sustainability science; and the philosophy, principles, and objectives of the FLR paradigm. Our qualitative analysis further draws on secondary data and insights from participant observation during FLR-related workshops. We build and organize the FLR characterization around answers to ten questions: why restoration; what purpose; for what desired outcomes; where (location and land uses); what spatial extent and scale(s); who; which techniques; how (approach/strategy); when and how long; and how much to achieve. We then assess early FLR strategic priorities for interventions across nine African countries and analyze five selected actual projects to illustrate use of the proposed FLR characterization framework. The illustrative characterization of both planned interventions and actual projects does not reflect all the proposed characteristics of FLR in practice. Missing features include the initial biophysical condition, the desired target ecosystem state, and evaluation dimensions, and ill-articulated aspects include cross-sectoral integrations. We contend that any significant differences between FLR conceptualization, including its principles, and the practical manifestations can undermine coherence, the value that the FLR approach adds, and its wider adoption. The proposed characterization of FLR in practice contributes to scholarly attempts to realign FLR conceptual philosophy, principles, and rhetoric to its practical manifestations in different contexts, and can inform future design of FLR undertakings for more inclusive landscape governance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-641
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Pollution


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